When I was a child, the Calgary Stampede was the highlight of our summer. Attending the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth was convenient because we lived on a farm south of the city. Our family certainly knew how to get the most out of the greatly anticipated event without spending much money.

taylor kids
Shirley, Art, Bob, and I wore cowboy hats and any other western garb we possessed for our big annual outing.

On the Stampede Parade Route

parade horses
In the downtown Calgary, stampede parade riders on spirited horses pranced by to kick off festivities.
indigenous people
The pride and dignity of the Indigenous people riding in the parade impressed us.
Harnessed to a cart, bison from the Calgary Brewery seemed a little bored by the admiring crowds along the parade route.
parade dancers
In the downtown streets, square dancers entertained with fancy steps and swirling skirts to loud, toe-tapping music.
harold anderson
Vintage country and western tunes played by bands set up on makeshift stages added a festive air to Stampede Week.
We stayed on the lookout for the Calgary Stampede’s royalty – the queen and her princesses. Imagine my excitement when former queen Donna Thomson Brasso (pictured) later taught me at Red Deer Lake School.
 Photo courtesy of the Calgary Stampede
Collection & Archives.

At the Stampede Grounds

Free admission to the Stampede Grounds on Children’s Day included an exciting live stage show featuring celebrities.
No visit to the stampede grounds was complete without touring the livestock barns. If our timing was good, we’d see our relative Leonard Wylie, who showed Ayrshire cattle. How thrilling it was to view the ribbons Leonard had won and hear his stories! We were very proud of him.
The Big Four Building offered free admission to view wall-to-wall vendors demonstrating wondrous products like the Veg-O-Matic food slicer advertised on TV.
Photo courtesy of the Calgary Stampede Collection & Archives.

After we found a shady bench and ate the lunch we’d packed, an ice cream cone topped off a satisfying day. Then, footsore and sometimes even a little sunburned, we’d trudge back to our farm truck parked what seemed like a mile away. Paying to park closer was out of the question. By 5 o’clock, we’d be back at the farm in time to milk the cows.

How I wish we could get together and do it all again.

Cowboys! Cowgirls! Pageantry! Chills and spills! That was – and is – the legendary Calgary Stampede.

More of my Alberta family stories:

Elaine Thomas
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